## Concept Explained: Proof by Contradiction

• Proof by Contradiction, also known as Reductio ad absurdum, is a method of demonstrating that a statement is true by showing that it would lead to a contradiction if it were false.

• This form of proof is useful when it is simpler to assume the opposite of the statement and then arrive at an impossible or absurd consequence.

• To use Proof by Contradiction, assume that the proposition you wish to prove is false.

• This assumption is added to your existing set of known truths and you then explore the logical consequences.

• You are searching for a logical contradiction, which can be defined as a result or statement that conflicts with a previously established fact.

• Finding this contradiction means that the assumption (that the proposition is false) must be wrong.

• Therefore, if assuming the statement is false leads to a contradiction, the original statement must be true.

## Example of Proof by Contradiction

• As a direct illustration, let’s prove that there is no smallest positive rational number.

• Assume towards contradiction, that there is a smallest positive rational number. Let’s call it ‘a’.

• Then ‘a/2’ must be smaller than ‘a’, which contradicts the assumption that ‘a’ is the smallest positive rational number.

• So, our assumption is contradicted and we conclude that there cannot be a smallest positive rational number.

## Impact of Proof by Contradiction

• A Proof by Contradiction might not give you a direct construction or an explanatory reason why something is the case.

• This kind of proof can be counterintuitive, as you assume the opposite of what you want to prove.

• Remember that Proof by Contradiction is widely accepted and used in all branches of mathematics as a powerful proof technique.

## Tips for Constructing a Proof by Contradiction

• Keep a clear path of logic and don’t lose sight of what you’re trying to prove. It’s easy to get lost while exploring the consequence of the assumption.

• Be open to finding contradictions in unexpected places. Your contradiction could involve concepts or facts outside the immediate proposition.